Recently, I came a across a copy of Space Empires V, a 4X game (4X stands for eXpand, eXplore, eXploit and eXterminate).
SEV, as we shall call it from now on, came out in 2006 and was riddled with bugs. Good thing about the game, though, is that patches are really frequent (last one came out on the 11th of June and the one before that came out on the 25 of March). Modding is rampant (I mean that in a good way) in this community and one of the most popular mods, Balance Mod (BM from now on – I just love acronyms 😛 ), fixes some of the imbalances of the stock product. I’ll be “reviewing” the game using that mod.
Right of the bat, SEV is a complicated game to get started in. Sure there’s a Quick Start mode, but that just allows you to select your race, nothing more. You have no control over who your enemies are going to be, how big the galaxy is going to be, starting technology, etc etc. On the other hand, the New Game option gives you too much control (hard to please, aren’t I?). From the standard “how hard do you want to be beaten” setting to the interesting “quadrant type”, which allows you to choose the kind of galaxy (open, closed, very compact, multiple dead end systems, etc), you won’t find anything escaping from your control. (Don’t forget about the settings for how many planets you start with, the one for the quality of those planets, the type of planet and atmosphere your race of choice breathes, and many many more!)
The gameplay in itself is fun, in my opinion. Technology plays a vital part in your success and if you forget to upgrade your Research Centers you will loose the game, simple as that. You have access to a myriad of different weapon systems, that allows for quite a degree of customization in your fleets. You can have a picket of shield destroying ships followed closely by a Cruiser with nothing but a weapon that kills the crew of enemy ships and, trailing, some light Boarding Party equipped Frigates. Nothing beats stealing your opponents entire fleet from under their noses 😛
The game still has some bugs. In one attack, I decided to Plague Bomb an enemy planet and after destroying his defending fleet, I sent in my Plague Frigate. It just flew around the planet, looking stupid. I ordered it to attack time and time again, but nothing. Nothing was preventing me from attacking with Plague Bombs (some treaties you make with other races prevent you from using certain weapons, and certain strategies the ships use also have the same effect) but I still couldn’t attack the planet. Weird.
I haven’t played multiplayer yet, my only experience is against 4 computer opponents and I haven’t even finished that game yet. So far so good, I’m winning and have already wiped out one race.
In conclusion, I like the game and would recommend it heartily to any fan of the 4X genre. Just be ready to deal with a steep learning curve and the occasional very irritating bug. Remember to save your game often!